Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Generational Perspective on “Youth Champs”

“There was a time I got to play at this level, and it was really fun,” said Ed Baird. “It’s great to be here watching my kids race and enjoy the sailing the way I did and still do today.”

Perched on top of the new Roger Williams University Sailing Center’s viewing deck, Ed Baird peered through his binoculars at the Laser Radial fleet in action on Mount Hope Bay. He couldn’t help being nostalgic as he watched his two sons, Nic and Ty, race at the U.S. Youth Sailing Championships.

The former Laser and J/24 World Champion, and two-time winner of the America’s Cup (one as helm, one as coach) has an interesting take on the state of youth racing in the U.S.

“It’s impressive to see how the overall skill level has changed from when I sailed here. The sailors at this level today are so far beyond where we were at this age. They’ve become so talented through great coaching and support.”

Beyond his role as a supportive dad, Ed was also focused on the racing from a coach’s perspective.

“As a coach, you assume everyone at this level is going to perform the maneuvers well. What you want to determine is - do they know how to decide if the maneuver or the boat speed is what they need in that situation? Can they recognize things like cloud formations and changes in currents for the next race or leg? You see a lot of these kids developing that type of maturity, and they experience the value of those decisions here at Youth Champs.”

Ed’s son Nic (pictured) is big fan of championships that include multiple classes and sailors from around the country. Fresh off his come-from-behind win at Youth Champs, Nic discussed what this event means to him.

“I had some very beneficial talks with some of the I-420 coaches and sailors about split tacks,” said Nic. “Just to be able to talk to other sailors and learn from their strategies is a great experience. Sailing different types of boats, in different kinds of racing, is really good for us as sailors. First of all, it’s a lot of fun, and it’s also really cool to see how other sailors approach these situations. I try to learn from that.”

Ed’s circle of sailing friends goes back decades, when he was a young promising sailor racing at championships like this event.

For coverage from the 2015 U.S. Youth Sailing Championships, visit the event website.

*Photo credit to Matt Cohen

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